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Kitman Labs founder details ‘the explosion of data’ in sports

Kitman Labs Founder & CEO Stephen Smith joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the growing industry in sports data and how elite sports teams can use data to boost performance.

Video Transcript


- The sports world has come a long way since Moneyball and the Oakland Athletics. In fact, data today is big-time sports business. And there's a company that is doing this in ways that sports teams can't get enough of. Let's bring in Stephen Smith, Kitman Labs founder and CEO, along with Josh Schafer, our sports reporter and producer. And congratulations, Stephen, on your successful series C fundraise, $52 million.

I brought up Moneyball. But what your platform allows teams to do, and we're talking university sports, all kinds of teams, can you summarize it for us, for those of us who left the story back in the early 2000s?

STEPHEN SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. We're a data and analytics company that helps high performance organizations to transform the fragmented data landscapes that have been cultivated over the last 10 to 15 years, through the explosion of data in this industry, and to transform that into shared understanding, and then to take that shared understanding, leverage analytics, and turn that into shared intelligence, that drives the decision-making that creates competitive advantage.

JOSH SCHAFER: And Stephen, one of the things that I think your company thinks you guys can really benefit from is the growth of data points in sports that are being collected. We have a graph that you guys sent along, where you predict that data, it's going to go from 2.4 million data points collected in 2021 to something like 230 million data points come 2025. Why are you predicting so much data growth? Where do you think teams are going to be looking to pick up more data points?

STEPHEN SMITH: You know, we've already seen it. It's come over the last number of years, as you can see, from 95,000 data points in 2014, through the north of 2 and 1/2 million data points per athlete per year right now. So most teams are collecting more than half a billion data points. What the growth is coming from, there's a huge drive in sophistication for some of the wearable sensors, optical trackers, different types of systems that are being used to cultivate data, that traditionally were less sophisticated, less granular.

And they're becoming, you know, they're appearing in every area of high performance sport, from scouting and recruiting through to coaching, sports medicine, nutrition, psychology, general management operations. It's starting to appear in every facet. And that's what's really driving the change that we're seeing today.

- This is Emily here. Your data have been used by sports teams, general managers, coaches, et cetera for now. I'm wondering, given all this data that you have available on your platform, do you see potentially a future use case for making some of this available commercially for sports betting or any other types of functions?

STEPHEN SMITH: Yeah, I think this data can be used for a multitude of purposes. And we're already seeing it being used in all areas of sports. I think it depends on the use case and the type of information. Obviously, some of the information that we're collecting and collating is related to sports medicine and player welfare, and athlete welfare. Obviously, information like that would not be used for gambling.

But there's a multitude of use cases from performance data and practice data that I think can be used for all sorts of fan engagement, marketing, media purposes, that, again, will drive the financial side of the business that we're seeing today. And we're incredibly excited about being at the center of that.

- When we talk to people who have expertise in data, like you and your firm, one of the things they've shared with us is look, data on its own doesn't really help you, unless you ask the right question. Do you help your teams, do you help the managers, form the question based on the outcomes they're looking for? How does that process work?

STEPHEN SMITH: Yeah, we actually take a very tailored approach to that exact, I suppose, problem that you're discussing. I think every team is trying to do something different, you know, regardless of whether the fact they play the same sport, or are in the same league. You know, the personnel they have is different, the game strategy they have is different. Their philosophy is different.

And that means that how they leverage technology to solve their particular problems needs to be different. And we take a very unique approach to helping organizations to understand how you ask the right questions of that data, how to cultivate the right data, and then even how to actually turn that into actions and decisions that are tailored for them specifically. And, you know, we've developed our operating system, which, almost like the Salesforce of sport, that can be configured in unique and tailored ways, for each different organization, to help them to achieve their tailored strategic goals.

JOSH SCHAFER: Stephen, what sports are you seeing that are most interested in this, as far as clients go. I know you guys are pretty heavy in Premier League and different soccer clubs. And I don't know if baseball has been a big thing. We already referenced Moneyball and their interest in data analytics. Has there been a sport that's maybe kind of up and coming, that's a lot more interested in data now than they used to be maybe five years ago?

STEPHEN SMITH: I think we're probably seeing it across every sport. You know, global soccer is obviously a huge market. But, you know, even if you look over here to North America, the stakes are higher than ever before. You only have to look to the NFL's recent $110 billion media deal to understand how much performance really matters.

And I think that's why we're seeing teams and leagues across football, whether it's at NFL or even in the collegiate level, turn to data analytics to drive that performance, because the prize is enormous.

- All right.

JOSH SCHAFER: Stephen, what's--

- Oh.

JOSH SCHAFER: Sorry, go ahead, Adam.

- No, Josh, you get the last question.

JOSH SCHAFER: Stephen, I guess I was just curious what you think is next for you guys, as a business. Are you interested in getting into tracking the data yourself, with some of the wearable technologies at all? Are you guys in that space, or are you just helping with the interconnection between the teams.

STEPHEN SMITH: Yeah, for us it's all about that platform play, right? It's all about, I think, moving the high-performance organizations from being data rich and insights poor to driving this age of performance intelligence. We've just raised a $52 million series C, we're in the process of adding over 100 new employees over the next 12 months. And we're just really excited about investing in innovation that's going to help people to take that data, consolidate that together, turn it into intelligence, and drive that competitive advantage.

- We appreciate your sharing this with us. Stephen Smith, Kitman Labs founder and CEO, Josh Schafer, see you at the post-meeting in a few.

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